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A conversation with John and Garrett from The Maine

The Maine has made some great strides as a band over the last few years including recording and releasing their last two albums, Pioneer and Forever Halloween, completely independent of a record label. They are hoping to be a band for a long time. John O’Callaghan (vocals) and Garrett Nickelsen (bass) took a few moments to discuss their new album, the politics of record labels, and how they’ve grown musically during their tour stop at the 930 Club in Washington DC on July 6. The Maine is O’Callaghan, Nickelsen, Kennedy Brock (guitar), Pat Kirch (drums), and Jared Monaco (guitar).

John and Garrett perform at the 930 Club in Washington DC during the 8123 Tour on July 6.
photo by Mandi Loranger

How has the fan response been for Forever Halloween?

Garrett: Good

John: I mean people have been showing up so that’s a good sign. We actually have had quite a few sold out shows. I think due in part to the package we put together. I don’t know, I think word of mouth about the tour, it’s kind of what we’re about. The online response has been awesome too.

Examiner: I saw a little bit on Twitter, all positive.

J: It’s always hard to gauge, it’s always one of those things where everyone seems to be a critic but it’s all opinion based. We only pay mind to the positive stuff obviously. There’s been a lot of it so we’re very thankful.

This is the second album you’ve done independently, I know there is a lot of good and a lot of bad, can you explain how this differs from working with a label?

G: With the label it seems like there’s a lot more opportunity, like press opportunities and things like that.

J: The bank roll obviously. It’s good to have a bag of money to just reach into…so all the decisions we have to make we have to be conscientious of where the money is going to come from because it’s going to be our pocket but I think it makes us appreciate everything more. Obviously the creative control we’ve been able to experience has been, I can’t even express the difference.

The sound difference which, I already gushed, but when you get a little more earthy sounds, you get more emotional.

J: I think when you’re under the thumb, and…when we were first starting out we were 17 and 18 years old. We didn’t necessarily, again not saying we know what we want to do and sound like now but I think we were even more disconnected from that thought. I guess our mindset now is more you know, ‘we got signed in the first place because we were writing material on our own.’ The stuff we were making was real and authentic. We figured, why change that? There’s no reason to.

When you were first starting out, had you hoped your sound would progress in this general direction?

G: I don’t know if we knew, we’ve learned about a lot of different music that we didn’t know that well back then. That’s crept into our influences. We also wanted to just be a rock band.

J: I think it’s imperative that we’ve had the interactions with the people that we’ve had the pleasure of meeting. You know Brendon Benson who [produced] the album, being able to pick his brain, he comes from a world that’s so far disconnected from where we grew up which was great to have a perspective like that in the room and somebody thinking about rock music.

G: He grew up in the 70s so it was completely different from where we came from; there were bands that were just sort of mentioning and he was like “I don’t even know who that is”

J: Which was awesome

G: So for him to be just as into the music as we were, the stuff that we were making, was awesome. It really showed us that if we were happy hopefully we’re making our fans happy because we’re connected with them. Also, having someone who’s so far out of it just as pumped was so awesome.

You did the album analog; it’s such a foreign concept these days. What lead you to that decision?

G: Him (Benson), totally him

J: It was him.

G: I remember it was sort of an idea we were throwing around for Pioneer but didn’t know how to do it. When we did the first few songs we tried to do them live with Pat, Jared, and I but it didn’t end up working out. I don’t think we were ready at that point.

J: Plus we didn’t have somebody there…coaching us through it. We looked to him for reassurance and we found that. It was very gratifying because it was something, like you said, that was very foreign to us and to be able to see his reaction and feel him acknowledging…

G: “Oh that was a good take” or something as easy as that…

J: It gave us the confidence that we really needed. It made something that was once very scary seem very plausible and very easily attainable.

For more from this interview, including John and Garrett’s musical influences, how they really felt about working with a label, and who might want David Bowie with his Labyrinth hair to follow him around all day, watch the attached video.

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